A “classical” approach to piano means more than learning classical repertoire, i.e. European art music of the last four centuries. Traditional piano teaching focuses heavily on note reading, technique, and memorization. Skills like ear training and improvisation are less emphasized.
Classical pedagogy is longstanding and well-developed. The Music Teachers National Association uses a ten level system that organizes piano literature and technical skills by difficulty. Each state has its own chapter of the MTNA: in Oregon it is the Oregon Music Teachers Association (OMTA). The OMTA provides a peer network, and puts on frequent conferences, presentations, and festivals that support classical teaching. Many of my students participate in OMTA events.
With my students, I focus on artistry as early as possible. Music is much more than a mixture of notes and rhythms, just as literature is more than an amalgam of words and grammar. For beginners, often artistry means focusing on the mood of the music. If a seven year old is playing a piece called “Dinosaur Stomp”, can we hear the crashing footsteps in the music? For an older student, I often point out how artistry is like good acting- as you memorize the piece, you learn how to express the music in a compelling way. The more developed and subtle students' artistry becomes, the more readily they can experience flow states (see relevant paragraph from above).
Teaching Video Clips
This video clip is part of a teaching sample I used as part of my Music Teachers National Association Certification. My student Travis and I talk about the perspectives a performer has about a piece of music versus the audience. To see Travis perform, please click here.
This is a video of the second lesson with this piece. We work on a few technical issues, like troubleshooting a rhythm problem.